Georgia's opposition leaders urged Britain to oppose the foreign influence bill.

  • By James Lendl
  • BBC Diplomatic Correspondent

image source, Getty Images

image caption, Protesters believe the proposed law would bring Russian-style sanctions.

Georgian opposition leaders have called on the UK to do more against a crackdown on civil society in the former Soviet country.

He urged the Foreign Secretary to show the ruling party that the international community is united against these proposals.

The Foreign Influence Transparency Bill is expected to pass its final parliamentary hurdles in the coming days.

Opponents have held large-scale demonstrations against this law in the capital, Tbilisi.

The legislation would force nongovernmental groups and media to register as “organizations acting in the interest of a foreign power” if more than 20 percent of their funding comes from abroad.

The ruling Georgian Dream Party says the move will increase transparency and defend Georgia's sovereignty.

But opponents say the government will use it to crush opposition voices and parties ahead of general elections in October.

They say it is also designed to disrupt Georgia's EU accession ambitions, which could not accept the new law.

The legislation has been dubbed the “Russian bill” because it is similar to the type of legislation the Kremlin uses to silence its critics.

The proposal has brought tens of thousands of people to the streets in the small country on the eastern coast of the Black Sea.

The US has been vocal in its attack on the bill, with national security adviser Jack Sullivan writing on Weekend X that the US is “deeply concerned about the democratic backsliding in Georgia”.

He said parliamentarians must “choose between the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the Georgian people or pass a Kremlin-style foreign agents law that is against democratic values… We stand with the Georgian people.” are”.

Britain, by contrast, has been more discreet in expressing its opposition.

In a written parliamentary response quietly published last week, Nusrat Ghani, the minister for Europe, said the UK ambassador in Tbilisi had “consistently expressed his concerns about the proposed law” in recent meetings with the prime minister and the president.

He said he had personally discussed the issue with the Georgian ambassador in London last month.

His only other public comments came 10 days ago, in a social media post warning against the “excessive use of force by the police against peaceful protesters in Tbilisi,” which he said that “is not in line with democratic values ​​and poses threats to Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”

But Georgian opposition MPs want Ms Ghani and Foreign Secretary David Cameron to go further.

Giorgi Vashadze, MP and leader of the Strategy Builder party, said: “Lord Cameron was one of Georgia's leading international supporters when we were attacked in 2008.

“We were grateful for their support, which did a lot to lift the morale of the country.

“As Foreign Secretary, I ask him to please do the same to highlight the government's efforts to rein in the opposition during an election year.”

Georgian MP and Parliamentary Leader of the United National Movement Tina Bokuchava said: “These written responses show that the UK government is privately concerned about the situation in Georgia.

“We need to publicize these concerns now, so that the ruling party understands that the international community is united against such authoritarian actions.”

A spokesman for the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office told the BBC that the UK had “grave concerns” about the foreign influence bill.

“The rhetoric and excessive force used by the police against the protesters is extremely worrying,” he said.

“We urge Georgian authorities to exercise restraint in policing peaceful protests.”

“The UK continues to engage with the Georgian government and civil society groups in Tbilisi, and our ambassador has consistently raised our concerns about the proposed law known to the Georgian government to the Prime Minister on 22 April. “

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